Monday, December 31, 2012

Clashing Kings

It was  mistake to bring George R.R. Martin's Clash of Kings to Mexico with me. To enthralling to put down (his writing technique of multiple narratives keeps you page turning, even when one story arc begins to bore you) I've spent all my free moments reading, rather than writing, as I'd initially planned. Not that I've had much "free" time mind you (there's still been a lot of eating and drinking and celebrating and relatives and church-going and dancing and fiestas and whatnot), but fast as I read, it still takes me awhile to get through a thousand page book. And I have gotten through it (a bit before breakfast, while the house was sleeping)...which means I'll have nothing to read on the plane ride home.

[and I probably won't be writing much, either. The problem with flying with a nearly-two-year old is he's close enough to you, and knowledgeable enough, to hit the keys on your laptop...and really enjoys hitting that big, round power button. Besides which, the wife would appreciate a little help entertaining the child; pulling out a fat novel to read once they've both fallen asleep isn't too tough, but pulling out one's laptop and sheaf of notes is a whole 'nother deal]

And today's our last full day in sunny Orizaba. Tomorrow is New Year's Day and we'll be spending it getting to the D.F. to fly back to Seattle, perhaps with a meal or two along the way. Still, it's possible I might get a few pages done tonight after everyone's asleep...heck, I can sleep on planes, no problem...but as I'll be back at the day job come Wednesday I want to have at least some semblance of restfulness.

Or not, I guess...I'll probably be spending most of the time listening to the sports talk radio about the upcoming Seahawks play-off game while checking email. Ah, yes..our cushy 21st century lifestyle.

You know, it's one thing to fantasize or read about or role-play in a medieval-type world of kings and peasants and all that jazz, but the "simple life" sure sounds a lot harder than anything I'd like to experience. Even in Mexico (which still hasn't climbed into the "first world" tier) people have smart phones and iPods and DVDs and big screens and (spotty) internet access...all the comforts of our post-modern world, plus fresh produce and excellent platillos.

Then again, it may be I'm just a bit bummed by the depth and breadth of Mr. Martin's fantasy world. It's a very cool setting, richly textured, and mired in all sorts of drama, intrigue, and adventure, not to mention a fairly classy handling of the supernatural ("fantasy") elements. It's difficult to imagine ever coming up with a coherent "pseudo-medieval" fantasy setting...for fiction or role-playing...that wouldn't end up looking like a poor version of Martin. Or worse, a pastiche-y knock-off. At least if you're interested in, say, D&D with courts and lords (Companion-level stuff) and not just dungeon delving.

That's the thing that irks me, I guess. I could draw a lot of inspiration from Martin's books for use in a high level (or "non-traditional") D&D campaign, but it would all feel, well, like I was ripping off the master. Or doing something half-assed in comparison. A bit like trying to create a dungeon environment that didn't feel like, in some way, a rip-off of a Tolkien setting...whether we're talking the goblin caves or the Mines of Moria or the Misty Mountain or Shelob's lair or the Nazgul's tower or Morgoth's dungeon (from The Silmarilion), etc. So many great static environments plumbed by "adventurers" in the Tolkien books, it's hard not to draw at least somewhat from them (as much fantasy does) when designing adventure sites.

Anyhoo, I suppose I'm being silly...just because I can't think of anything better, doesn't mean someone else can't.  More on this later, perhaps...I've got more eating to do.

Happy New Year, folks!
: )

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End Is Nigh

For those who may not have heard, some of us have been counting down the days of the Mayan tzolkin calendar, waiting to see what tremendous Earth changes may or may not be wrought when we hit zero hour. Being a long-time studier of astrology (including mesoamerican astrology), Edgar Cayce, Graham Hancock, and other non-traditional historians (commonly called quacks, fakers, and whack-jobs), I am all about counting down our final hours. Fact is, I've had a timer counting down our final hours on the ol' Blackrzor blog (bottom o the page) since I first started this thing a couple-three years ago.

Welp, today is the final day of the Mayan "long count" epoch..."4 Flower" in the uinal that started with 11 Alligator some twenty days ago (why doesn't the final count down end in a 13 Flower? No idea, just one of those mysteries of the mesoamerican numbering system). Not that it matters too much...I mean any of it. I've blogged before about the possibility of great "Earth Changes" including what I feel is the main things with which to concern ourselves (hint: it has to do with being kind to each other as much as possible...even people with whom you don't necessarily agree).

Anyhoo, tomorrow will see the dawning of a new epoch (I figure to go by midnight, Yucatan time), and I will be celebrating by getting into Mexico City very early in the morning with my family (I'm typing this from a Dallas airport computer while awaiting my connecting flight) and heading east towards Veracruz. No, not because I plan on taking part in any New Age-y mesoamerican celebration, but simply the traditional Christmas-with-family-and-in-laws celebration. And for those of us who can (hard as it might be) get beyond the coming Seahawks-Forty-Niners showdown in Seattle on Sunday, I think the most important thing for us ALL to do on the edge of this great cosmic changeover is to remember the Real Meaning of the Christmas Holiday.

No, not Jesus's birthday. Jesus was a Pisces, dude. I'll post his horoscope sometime.

No, the real deal with regard for Christmas can be found in its "heathen" roots as a mid-winter celebration...the 21st (or thereabouts) generally being the proverbial "longest night off the year." What midwinter celebrates is (guess what?) the night's start getting shorter thereafter, as we start that slow upward climb out off darkness and back to the Spring. It is a time of renewal (and often Yule-time booze), and we'd do well to consider how, no matter how dark the darkness gets, there always comes a light evetually...hopefully, a light that brings great joy and love to everyone.

Here's to hoping. Feliz Navidad, folks. I'll try to write more from Mexico...assuming the holidays grant me a little free time for writing.
: )

[P.S. Go 'Hawks!]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fucking Assholes

So, yes, I've been busy lately (duh). I won't bore you terribly with the details: traveling to Canada and back, sickness, traveling to D.C. (the "other Washington") and back, "single parent duty," working the job-type-job, Seahawks, beagles, etc. In all honesty, I went into work this morning thinking I'd write up a list of 10 or 20 space opera themed post topics for the next couple weeks, probably beginning with a book I picked up at The Newseum in our nation's capital, Darth Vader and Son. But I never quite got around to it. Mainly 'cause some fucking asshole decided to kill close to 30 fellow humans in Connecticut today, including a score of kindergartners.

2012 has been a "banner year" for this kind of bullshit, and frankly I'm sick of it. Back in April a young woman (age 21) who'd just moved to Seattle for culinary school was hit by a stray bullet in downtown Seattle and killed instantly. In May, a 43 year old software developer was killed by a random bullet while driving his family around town...a random bullet meant for someone else. Later that same month, a man from Ellensburg shot (and killed) four people in a Seattle cafe, before shooting (and killing) a random woman near Town Hall and taking her SUV. He later took his own life when police found and cornered him.

The shooting spree at the Batman movie over the summer actually prompted my wife to suggest that we not expose our child to "violent" superhero characters; as if anything about Batman would inspire a person to commit random acts of murder. A professional football player making piles of cash put nine bullets in the young mother of his own child before putting a bullet in his own head a couple weeks ago. Then, of course, there was the shooting last week in an Oregon shopping mall that claimed the lives of three people and injuring another. As with the football player, the cafe shooter in May, and the asshole from today, one of the lives claimed was his own.

And today...words cannot express how awful this tragedy is. I have nightmare thoughts sometimes about what it would be like to outlive my child...for anything to happen to him, sweet innocent that he is. And tonight, there are the parents of 20 young children who are going through their own personal hell because of something so horrific, I never even imagined it as a possibility. I mean, what kind of fucking asshole does that?

And yet he's dead. The killer is dead. All those Republicans out there who support capital punishment (i.e. the "death penalty") should be happy that justice was "self-served," right? Hell, the guy saved the tax payers a ton of money on trials and prosecution and prison housing and mental institutions, etc. I mean, that gives all those grieving family members the closure they need right?


Same with the asshole that offed himself in Seattle. Or the asshole that played for the Chiefs. Or the asshole that offed himself in the mall in Oregon. The asshole from the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre has been trying to off himself in jail, but probably won't manage to do so before the state does it for him (Colorado continues to carry the death penalty and performed it's last state execution in 1997...I'm guessing the asshole that killed 12 people who just wanted to watch a popcorn action flick...including a six-year old child...will get the lethal injection, too). They're all reaping their "justice" and the grieving families of the victims will continue to grieve in sorrow. Because they are still suffering from the loss of their loved ones and have no good answers to their main question: "Why?"

Why has this happened? Why has it happened to us? Why has it happened to our loved ones? What is the thing we this life or a past deserve this horror, this tragedy? Why was this murderer such an asshole? Why does our "great society" continue to produce these assholes? Why are they able to do what they do?

And of course, when these questions cannot be answered the next ones asked are "What could we have done to prevent this?" "What could we have done to protect ourselves?" "What can we do in the future to ensure this never, ever happens again?"

Get rid of the guns.

I hate guns. I fucking loathe guns. I, quite literally, cannot stand the touch or feel of guns...when I've held handguns before (a .45; a Glock), I dropped 'em like a live grenade.  Like a poisonous snake. Like something violently designed to do kill...which is exactly what guns are designed to do. They are not designed to be a "neutral tool." They are not manufactured to open stubborn locks or drill holes in a wall for your cable wire. They are created with the purpose of ending life. And they are very, very good at it. Our centuries of technological development have seen vast improvements in this area.

Now, I too have heard that old chestnut about how "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and that's certainly true for the most part...usually, a gun only kills a human when it is pointed at someone and the trigger is pulled by another human. The common argument I hear is that a person with a "will to kill" will find a way to do it, even if he lacks access to a firearm.

And to that I say this: If the asshole in Connecticut had not had access to automatic weapons and large capacity firearms that were purchased legally...if he had instead, say, been forced to use a hunting knife or a ball-peen hammer to do his dirty many people do you think he would have actually managed to kill before he was stopped? How many of the six adults at the elementary school would he have bludgeoned to death before being dragged down and pummeled unconscious? How many children would he have been able to chase down and effectively stab to death before someone clocked him or the police showed up?

The thing that allowed this asshole to inflict the death and suffering on such a horrific scale was his access to guns. That's it...we don't know how many bullets were fired, how many magazines were expended, how many misses were chalked up before his bullets found their victims. But the ability to shoot and shoot and shoot with deadly speed and range and traumatic impact is what allows an asshole to go from "disgruntled crazy guy" to a mass slayer of innocence. It's what turned simple murder into massacre.

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states:
A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
So carry a goddamned sword.

I'm serious; I'm sick of it. The idea that prohibiting the citizenry from owning firearms is going to somehow keep a reign on our country becoming a tyranny or military dictatorship is just loony-tunes. If the U.S. military ever decides to stage a coup and take over, we as a people are royally screwed, regardless of whether or not Joe Citizen has an assault rifle in his gun locker. Back in the 18th century, the British soldiers and the American colonists were armed with the same gear: muskets, sabers, cannon. Have you seen what our military is packing these days? Smart bombs and drones fighters, RPGs and mortars, armored fighting vehicles and stealth bombers and .50 caliber machine guns and nuclear attack subs. Having an assault rifle or hand gun in your possession isn't going to allow you to wage revolution, should all hell break loose. Didn't you folks see the armed "insurrection" in Iraq? You know, back when we invaded their country? Their militia (or freedom fighters or guerillas or whatever you want to call them) didn't stand a chance...we just bombed cities flat to quell resistance. And the same would happen here if there was a citizen uprising in the face of martial law backed up by our U.S. war machine.

The 2nd Amendment is something the NRA hides behind because they don't want anyone telling 'em what they can and can't do. And I can understand that...I don't like being told what to do either. If I'm a smoker, how dare my state pass a law that prohibits smoking inside any public building...what if I own the building and want it to be a smoking establishment? How dare the government tell me what I can and can't do with my own property and my own business? What the heck gives them the right to say I have to stand 25 feet away from a bus shelter (in the rain) to light up a smoke?

I'll tell you what gives them the right: the invested authority of the government by the people to protect its own citizens. Smoking causes great harm. If you want to smoke cigarettes (and slowly kill yourself in the process) that's your business, but you'll not be allowed to inflict cancer on others...even inadvertently...with your second hand smoke. Even if you're always careful to blow your smoke the opposite direction. Your "personal rights" are being "infringed" so that others' rights (to life, in this case) isn't being infringed.

You may have the right to "pursue happiness" but not if exercising that right means stealing someone else's car stereo to buy your crank.

So infringe our goddamned personal rights already: get rid of the guns. They're existence in the hands of ordinary (i.e. non-military, non-law enforcement) folks only causes harm.

[jeez...forgot about that 16 year old kid shot dead by the "citizen watch" asshole in Florida]

Sure, that's going to seem unfair to folks who are well-adjusted, trained in the use of firearms, and capable of keeping their guns under lock-and-key when not on the target range. But it's for the greater good, people. I can drive my car just fine after drinking enough to put me over the "legal limit," but that law (and limit) exists for very good reason. This whole "right to the gun" thing IS the main issue here. It is the presence, and prevalence, of guns in our society that makes it one where "death by gun" has the highest rate of any first world country.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
Apparently law enforcement doesn't count? Look, at this point, I'm willing to have that line be the case...especially if it makes it more difficult for the assholes of the world (these "quiet, shy" types who have no problems passing their screenings and then go batshit crazy) to acquire the means of inflicting such terrible, terrible tragedy. These perpetrators of massacre aren't knocking over convenience stores and robbing banks...they are simply going into public places and pulling the trigger as fast as they can.

This is awful, awful shit...truly, truly terrible and my heart is bleeding for the families and friends of ALL these gun victims that continue to accrue. You may think it strange that a guy who plays and writes violent role-playing games (especially ones that involve firearms) would be so "anti-gun," but I have long held the opinion and stance that the ONLY place an ordinary person should be able to "play with guns" should be in fiction: books, movies, video games, RPGs. I've always enjoyed violent fiction, and it hasn't turned me into any type of serial killer. These fucking assholes that are killing people are profoundly disturbed individuals looking for an outlet of violence (perhaps they don't have enough fiction in their lives) and would be doing so regardless of exposure to violent media images.

The best thing we can do is take the guns out of hands...limit the harm they can perpetrate.

Tonight, my prayers are with the families of today's victims. I really do wish I could offer more to them. Hopefully, they will find the strength in their hearts to persevere through this time of trial. For them, their "end of days" must truly feel like it's upon them. I hope sane heads in our government will see this issue and problem for what it is and work to ensure a tragedy like this can never again occur.